Construction Worker Injuries and Your Legal Options

Besides a workers' comp claim, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit for negligence or product liability.

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Construction jobs can be very dangerous. Heavy machinery. Working at heights on scaffolding or below ground in trenches. Using potentially dangerous tools and equipment. Even while surrounded by all of these hazards, however, you still have the right to expect that your workplace will be reasonably safe and that you’ll be protected from unnecessary risks and injuries.

If you are a construction worker and you suffer a work-related injury, you may have several options available to you when it comes to making a claim. Read on to learn more.

Can I Make A Workers' Compensation Claim?

As with most occupations, if you are injured while doing construction work you are probably eligible for workers' compensation benefits. The workers' compensation systems vary from state to state, but they generally have several elements in common:

  • Workers' compensation is generally a “no fault” system for payment of benefits. This means that you do not have to prove that another person or entity was negligent or otherwise caused your injury. You only have to prove that (1) you were injured, and (2) the injury occurred in the course and scope of your employment.
  • Each employer is required to carry workers' compensation insurance. It is through this insurance that benefits resulting from an injury claim are paid.

A workers' compensation claim typically pays for:

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages, and
  • partial or permanent disability.

The reasoning behind this limitation on the benefits paid in a workers' compensation claim is that, in exchange for not having to go through expensive litigation to prove that someone else caused your injury, you give up your right to pursue other damages such as pain and suffering.

Learn more about Workers' Compensation Claims and Benefits.

Can I Bring a Civil Lawsuit Outside of Workers' Compensation?

In addition to workers' comp, you may be entitled to bring a claim for damages against other persons or entities. This will depend not only on the particular circumstances of your injury, but also the rules in the state in which you live.

In a typical construction job, you frequently work with other subcontractors or vendors. There are often many other persons on a job site, operating heavy machinery or even driving trucks. Additionally, other persons who aren’t even on the job site also may also play a role in on-the-job injuries. These persons may include architects, engineers, and suppliers. If you are injured due to the negligence of one of those persons, you may have a claim for damages against not only that individual, but also that person’s employer.

These actions take the form of a traditional lawsuit with the same rules and procedures as if you were pursuing a personal injury following a car accident. To prevail in such a lawsuit, you must generally prove all three of the following requirements:

  • another person or entity had a duty to act in a reasonable and safe manner in regards to you
  • this person or entity failed to perform that duty (i.e., they were negligent), and
  • you were injured as a result of that negligence.

Learn more about Negligence and the Duty of Care.

Negligence by another person or entity can occur in any number of situations on a construction site. Some of these include:

  • a fall from scaffolding that has been improperly erected
  • reckless driving by a truck driver that leads to an accident
  • defectively-designed safety equipment, such as a harness, that leads to an injury
  • electric shocks from defective equipment
  • repetitive motion injuries
  • hazardous/toxic chemical leaks or spills due to faulty equipment or decisions, and
  • the collapse of a trench due to improperly-built trench barriers.

More: Workplace Injuries: When You Can Sue Outside of Workers' Comp.

Product Liability Lawsuits for Construction Injuries

Sometimes your injury may be caused by a piece of equipment, but the injury wasn’t necessarily caused by the improper use of that equipment. Rather, the equipment or tool may have malfunctioned due to a faulty design or poor manufacture.

In that situation, your claim would again be brought as a civil lawsuit, but one for “product liability.” The defendant in the lawsuit could be anyone from the designer of the tool to a supplier of parts used in the assembly of the equipment. Even though those persons or entities may be far removed from the construction site in terms of both time and distance, their actions may still have played a role in your on-the-job injury. A product liability lawsuit takes the same form as any other civil suit but the elements that you must prove in court are slightly different. You generally must show:

  • the tool or equipment that caused your injury was unreasonably dangerous when it left the supplier or manufacturer
  • you were using the tool or equipment in the manner intended, and
  • the tool or equipment had a dangerous defect that caused your injury.

Get more information on Proving a Product Liability Claim.

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